Human services workers want cost-of-living adjustment restored

More than 900 attendees joined a virtual rally to pressure the mayor and City Council.

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Yesterday, over 900 people joined a virtual rally to call on New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and the City Council to restore cost-of-living adjustments for human services workers. These workers are employed by nonprofits with city contracts, such as organizations working in child care and supportive housing. According to the rally’s hosts, the Human Services Council and United Neighborhood Houses, cuts during the fiscal year 2021 budget have left human services workers underpaid, especially after the essential work those employees did during the COVID-19 pandemic. The organizations cited the city’s previous budgets, which provided for a 2% adjustment in fiscal year 2018, fiscal year 2019 and fiscal year 2020 as the precedent for reinstating these arrangements.

Nonprofit leaders and employees were joined by City Council Members Ben Kallos and Helen Rosenthal. Kallos, who is running for Manhattan borough president, called on the mayor to take action, saying, “The best thing that Mayor de Blasio could do for our city’s recovery is to invest in our human service workers. Eighty percent of our human service workers are women and 80% of those women are women of color.” Kallos’ remarks echoed nonprofit employees speaking in the chat, saying that the city should financially support Black and brown workers.

The call to restore the cost-of-living adjustment comes after the city’s reinstatement of covering indirect costs for human services organizations, such as utilities and overhead. Indirect costs were cut at the end of fiscal year 2020. Nora Moran, director of policy and advocacy of United Neighborhood Houses, said similar pressure on City Council members helped reinstate indirect cost funding in April. Moran said that her organization and others plan to regroup and continue their work, but that the turnout reflected popular support for the reinstatement of the cost-of-living adjustment.